See, this is why Apple is so annoying. I don’t have a cell phone, I don’t want one. I don’t have a video iPod, I don’t want one. But the iPhone sounds awesome, despite being a jazzed up combination of those two. I’m not going to go out and buy one on release or anything, but it sounds amazingly well done. And I’m really really curious about the UI. (I’m watching the video of the keynote while typing this.)
When this sort of thing happens, I find it useful to remind myself why Apple is bad. Why, just yesterday I was on the phone with their support: the DVD drive in my laptop can’t write very well. Which wouldn’t be so bad – occasional defects happen – but apparently I’m not the only person with this problem. Fortunately, I’m within the warranty period, so I can send it in and get it replaced. (Which apparently they do rather speedily.) But, on the phone, I learn that I’ve committed the mortal sin of not signing up for their support plan, and they really don’t want to repair my computer without my having done that, even though it’s under the warranty. After a few go-arounds, the person I talk to admits that she can send me a link to a troubleshooting article; if I do what it says, they’ll be willing to provide me with warranty support. So I hang up, a few minutes later I get the link to the troubleshooting article. Gee, I should check to see if my computer has a recordable DVD drive! I never would have thought of that on my own – clearly I should pay $350 for AppleCare to tell me that. Sheesh.
It’s not all bad – I quite like this computer, I’m still amazed at the effects that my iPods have had on my life. And they’re not the only computer out there with the occasional support or quality problem. What I’m more seriously concerned about is their attempts to lock down their technology and use their monopoly power however possible. Right near the start of the phone section of the keynote, Steve Jobs emphasized the patents that they had for it, and how they were planning to wield their patent power, and he emphasized this again at the end. (And the assholes in the audience applauded loudly in response.) He also talked about three revolutionary interface mechanisms that Apple has been instrumental in promoting: the mouse, the click wheel, and the iPhone’s new UI. Thank god that Apple didn’t invent the mouse: it would have been disastrous had they had a monopoly over the device. (As it was, they did their best to threaten others with interface patents at the time.) I can’t see how it’s a good thing that they do have patents over the click wheel; I really really hope there’s enough prior art to let others comfortably imitate the new UI.
And then there’s their attempt at getting a music monopoly with the iTunes store and its single-vendor DRM. (Not that I’m the biggest fan of multi-vendor DRM, either.) I’m happy that iPods have succeeded, I hope the iPhone does, but I’ve never bought anything from the iTunes store, and I don’t plan to ever do so. Earlier in the keynote Jobs said that the iTunes store is the fourth largest music retailer in the country; this is not good.
Or maybe I’ll lapse into hopeless optimism for a moment and imagine that this speculation might be accurate: maybe the record labels are scared enough of Apple’s dominance that they’re finally starting to think that unencrypted MP3s are their only hope. That would be quite a silver lining. But I am not holding my breath…
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